Book Review: Broad Band (The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet)

History, it’s said, is told by the ones who win. Which makes me wonder with discomfort why I, an avid reader of technology, never thought about the question of “Where are all the women?” whenever I have read histories of the Internet and technology in the past. Broad Band (The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet), by Claire Evans, sets the record straight, and does so with depth and storytelling. I’m glad to have discovered it.

Evans, a technology reporter, dives in deep to the many women whose work from the very beginning of technology and computers (stretching back to Ada Lovelace’s work with Babbage) paved the way for the way we interact and use the Internet (and other tools) today.

There were women doing the first manual card programming of mainframe computers — the women were called “computers” before a conference of men decided that “computer engineer” was a better term that would allow more recruiting of people into the field, and in doing that change of identity, they effectively shut the door on many women who did have advanced degrees in engineering because of cultural norms around who stays home with the children and who is the primary paycheck in the family.

There were women at the heart of the emergence of video game design, creating games that were built around storytelling and interactive choices, eyeing ways to engage girls in a time when boys were the rage. A section here about marketing of games via gender is fascinating. There were women creating safe social networking spaces before, and then as, the World Wide Web began to take hold, years before MySpace and Facebook and Twitter. There were women who devised the protocols of the Internet data packet transfer systems.

We often hear about The WELL in San Francisco, California, as one of the starting point of community networking, but in the same city, in another building, there was a collective of women with their own mainframe computer, programming it to gather and share resources about social services for families and organizations, as well a place to make connections over modems. Just like the WELL, in some aspects, but RESOURCE ONE was more attuned to the common good of the world. And mostly forgotten. I’d never heard of it.

And on and on it goes, and I appreciate that Evans researched and wrote this kind of book, as a sort of counter-balance to the male narrative of computers and technology. I am appreciative of the design capabilities of these women, and their vision for a more connected and more positive world with technology as another means to an end.

Peace (in the back pages),
Kevin

Blog Celebration: 10,000 Comments and Counting

Blog Comment 1

I know numbers are not everything. But some events still require a little celebration, right? Yesterday, during the Slice of Life, Chris posted a comment about my interaction with a student, and her comment became the 10,000th comment at Kevin’s Meandering Mind.

Blog Comment 10000

It’s funny because I kept checking in all morning to see if I would reach 10,000 during the morning, after posting my Slice of Life. I knew it would happen because the Slice of Life group is one that regularly reads and comments on Tuesday mornings.

I just didn’t know who it would be or when it would be. Thank you, Chris, for being the one.

I’m still staggered by that number, though. Ten thousand comments. That’s … like, a whole city of comments. A book could be made of the comments here. Pretty cool to consider.

I went back and searched my blog for the very first person to comment here and I found it was Will Richardson on July 27 2006. Will being the first commenter is sort of symbolic in a way because Will’s work early on with blogs, and wikis, and podcasts, helped inspire me to dive in with wonder when I first started blogging as a teacher (this blog came as a result of conversations and work with National Writing Project friends in a Tech Matters retreat in Chico, California, and I still have many close friends from that retreat.)

I went into the Wayback Machine to look for my blog in 2006.

My Blog: Wayback Machine 2006

I am grateful that people still bother to read blogs (now and then, but not as often as it once was, alas) and that they even bother to read mine, and then, take the time to leave comments. It makes blogging feel more like a public act of writing, as opposed to a private notebook posted for others to look at. I wish I were better at using comments to start larger conversations.

Certainly, social media platforms have overtaken blogging in many ways. People (and not just the young kids) are more apt to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr (sort of a blog), and more, and the decline of RSS readers (I still use one) as a way to gather aggregated feeds from blogging writers and educators is less a reading experience for many. Blogging isn’t dead, not by a long shot, but it has faded a bit into the busy background of the social media landscape.

So, if you have left a comment here sometime in the last 12 years, thank you. See you at 20,000 comments in about 12 more years … right?

Peace (making note of it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Boy Who Wants to Hit Delete

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I’ve had a conversation a few times with one of my students that goes along the lines of something like this.

“Mr. H, can I trash all of my writing?”

“What? No. Of course not. Why would you do that?”

“I don’t know. My Google account seems full of files. Can I get rid of them?”

“You don’t need to do that. First of all, your school Google account has plenty of space — more than you will probably ever need. Second, I want you to be able to look back when you graduate high school and see what writing you did in sixth grade. This account will follow you for the next seven years.”

“Oh.”

“And third, we will be working on a digital writing portfolio this Spring, pulling pieces from the entire year, to showcase your work. If they are in the trash, you can’t easily find them.”

“Oh. Ok.”

I’ve had at least three iterations of this same conversation with this same student over the last four months or so. He is an avid technology user, and he has benefitted from our extensive work with technology to improve his writing. I’m not sure why he feels the need to delete his files in his Google account. It clearly is on his mind.

I suspect it is not so much to do with his feelings about his writing — which was my first thought, as writing does not come naturally to him but he works hard on every assignment — and more to do with the untidiness of the Google architectural design system. Even with folder systems, the Google digital file architecture can be tricky and confusing to navigate.

Yesterday afternoon, at the bus loop, he told me he wasn’t sure anymore if he wants to be an engineer. I told him I was surprised to hear him say that, and that I thought he would make a fantastic engineer — he loves to design and build things, and solve problems — and when he asked me what kind of engineer I thought he would become, I said: architectural engineer.

Later, thinking of our conversations about files and computers, I wondered if he might be the one to finally solve the problems of curating digital content in meaningful ways for all of us as a networking engineer or something.

Maybe so.

Peace (don’t delete),
Kevin

 

Tumbling Back in Time (An Archive of a Rock and Roll Band)

Big Daddy Kiljoy Collage

My guitarist friend passed me the large envelope and asked me to become its “owner.” I looked inside. It was filled with documents from one of our earliest rock and roll bands (Big Daddy Kiljoy). There were contracts for gigs, paper fliers that we used to put up around town, receipts from studio recording sessions, and more.

It was a travel down memory lane, for sure, and I digitized all the documents at home, and created the collage for him, and the drummer. The three of us — now nearly completing the formation of another band with the possible addition of a bass player — have been making music for more than 20 years, and it all began with the rag tag rock and roll of Big Daddy Kiljoy.

Wanna hear some from the archives? I wrote and sang the first song, and our friend, Tom, now deceased, sang the second song, written by Bob, the drummer.

Send Me Out a Sign

I Miss Understanding You

 

Peace (rocks out),
Kevin

 

 

Riffing Off Poems with Echoes of Originals


Typewriter flickr photo by markus spiske shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

It started with a poem about not having a poem to write about. Or rather, a morning where Bud Hunt didn’t post an image to inspire poetry, as he has been doing all month. I am a creature of writing habit, so when the prompt wasn’t there, I still had to write a poem, and then shared it with Bud on Twitter.

From there, Bud wrote a poetic response, on Twitter, and I heard an echo of a famous poem in his opening lines, so I tweeted back with my own poem. Dave Cormier jumped in and before I knew it, we were doing some poetry ping pong.

You can nearly hear the works of Poe, Whitman, Angelou, Williams, Wordsworth, Dickens, and others, if you read carefully enough in our Twitter poems. Not that we were being true to the poems, only that we were building off the familiar.

I gathered them up into a Twitter Moment (my first stab at Twitter’s curation tool). Take a look. I think I got them all.

For all the talk we have of the worries and dangers about social media, a small experience like this — a poetry riff that emerges only from creativity and connections — is a gentle reminder of the possibilities that come when people and ideas flow together, with humor and humanity.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin

Everyday Alchemy (video collection, continued)

I’m still deep into making daily alchemy with the Networked Narratives daily prompts (known as the Daily Arganee), but I suspect with the university courses nearing the end of the semester, the dailies will begin to fade off. Which is fine. (NetNarr is a combination of two university courses taught by Alan Levine and Mia Zamora, and anyone else on the open web who wanders in.)

Until the daily prompts end, I’ll continue to try to arrive at something poetic at a slant (meaning, I try not to address the prompt straight on but rather, use the prompt for something different — tilt your head to see, that sort of thing) … and I will continue to gather and curate my small pieces into short video collections. Right now, my biggest hurdle is trying to name these curated videos.

🙂

I am also still gathering every prompt response I have done, and need some sort of inspiration for the dozens of small videos that I have made. Something will come to me, I am sure …

Peace (alchemized),
Kevin

 

Book Review: Books for Living

There’s a moment towards the end of Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living where he recounts how a book he read — A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre in 1829 — reminded him the power of observation, and how we can make sense of our lives if we just slow down, observe the small details and write with passion.

This call to reflect reminds me a lot of some the writing I have been trying to do in Mastodon, of noticing small moments and writing small poems, of invocations of the world and of the wonders of the world, writ small. Unlike de Maistre, I am not confined to my bedroom by the legal system (as he was, for a stretch of time, and therefore, he had little more to write about when he decided he would write about his room as if it were an entire world).

Throughout Schwalbe’s Books for Living, as he uses each chapter to focus on book(s) connected to something he has learned about living his life, I was reminded of the power of reflection, and agree with his observation that reading is a certain kind of magic that connects us with our past histories, our current stories, and lays the groundwork for where we might be going.

Here, Schwalbe connects with such books as Stuart Little, Giovanni’s Room, The Odyssey, Song of Solomon, Bird by Bird, and many more. His writing style is inviting, and his honesty shines through in his observations of his life through the lens of stories. This is a book for book lovers, and even encountering books I didn’t know– such as A Journey Around My Room — you can feel the pull to investigate, as Schwalbe provides as suitable guide into the internal landscape.

Peace (books),
Kevin

 

Video: Ethics of Immersive Digital Storytelling

(image via Andrea Phillips)

A conversation recently unfolded on Twitter about Transmedia Storytelling, in which author and transmedia storyteller Andrea Phillips joined in, adding an interesting wrinkle to the discussion.

She voiced concern over the ethics and responsibility of digital storytellers, particularly those who use media to trick/entertain viewers to enter into the story from different angles. (Transmedia is the idea of a story unfolded over different media, technology and platforms — the pieces joined together to tell a story, although each piece could stand on its own.)

(image via Pinterest)

Andrea then shared this Ted-style talk she did on this topic, and I think it is worth viewing, if only to remind ourselves that there is a fine line between reality and story, and between responsibility and creativity.

Meanwhile, I got Andrea Phillip’s book — A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling — out of the library and dove in last weekend, reading as she shared her experiences as creating Transmedia experiences and interviews with others. She brings a lot of great insights into the mix.

I enjoyed the inside look, although I came away with the notion that Transmedia pieces are mostly geared towards selling a product — a movie tie-on or a commercial aspect or marketing campaign.

Perhaps this is because that is her job — and if companies are the ones paying your fees, you make what they want you to make — but it struck me as unsettling, that my naive idea of “story for the sake of story” might be out of sync with the world.

Peace (sharing it responsibly),
Kevin

Book Review: The Creativity Project

Can I admit, the comics and graphic stories here were my favorites?

The Creativity Project is a book that teacher/book lover Colby Sharpe put together under the auspices of a brilliant idea: What if he asked published children book creators to come up with writing prompts and then what if he shuffled the prompts, and sent them back out to the writers/illustrators and asked them to write the story from the prompt?

He did. They did. It’s wonderful.

The book itself is a collection of the 44 creative writing prompts — some serious, some pure whimsey — and the resulting 44 stories — some serious, some whimsical. Did I mention that I loved the graphic story responses the best? They just pulled me right in, as I thought about the prompt that sparked the story.

A loose floorboard in an old aunt’s house. An eavesdropping story. An anagram challenge. The guy next door. Object animation. A poem about words. Dog translation app.

Some of the prompts are mere images to be deciphered. Some are one-liners. Others are story starters. They run the gamut, which makes reading The Creativity Project so much fun because you find yourself connecting the prompt with the story and this causes the reader to think on the gap between the two — how did the writer end up there?

And then … here’s the beautiful part … the writers also contributed even more prompts, with no stories, with a call to us — the readers — to write our own pieces from new prompts at the end of the book. I love that part of the book — the invitation to write.

And so … I take the plunge … I found this prompt by Margarita Engle …

hummingbird frenzy,
each whir of wings helps me feel
earthbound and dazzled

— a poem prompt by Margarita Engle (p. 231)

My response (I went from hummingbird to butterfly):

I am forever
long for this world,
my wings barren of dust

I forgive the boy,
who in his quest for science
thought I might fly from his hand

Now I watch and wonder
at the change in the winds,
my mind flying when my wings won’t

I forgive the boy,
who cried when he discovered
my magic dust over his fingers

for now, I am forever
of this world, flightless, earth-bound,
my wings translucent

and temporary.

— Kevin Hodgson, 2018

The Creativity Book will get you writing. What more could you want?

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Bag o’ Work Left at School

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

This is the first Spring vacation week in memory where I didn’t have an overflowing bag of student writing (either literally, or figuratively, now that I use Google Classroom for much of our writing) to read and assess and comment upon. My carrying bag, the one that is often filled with student work, is still in my classroom. I didn’t need it.

Either through planning (there was some of that, to be sure) or sheer luck of where our unit is right now (there is some of that), I’ve been able to mostly keep it relaxed so far this week.

So, why does that make me feel guilty? Sheesh.

I’m so used to spending time outside of school with student writing, and thinking of lesson plans and activity flow, that when things slow down, I feel as if something should be happening. Helping students make progress with their learning — with their writing — that’s what teachers do.

Ok, but … still … relax.

Enjoy your books. Enjoy your family. Enjoy Spring (even with snow and sleet still on the ground from yesterday’s storm that gave us permission to stay inside most of the day). Think about the days ahead when we get back, but not too much.

The dog needs a walk. Go on and do it.

Peace (on the horizon),
Kevin